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Basso to race in Lombardia?

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According to Eurosport:

Italian investigators have requested that charges against Ivan Basso be dropped, which means the Tour of Italy victor could be racing as early as Saturday's Giro di Lombardia.

Basso was suspended on the eve of the 2006 Tour de France after being implicated in the Operation Puerto doping probe in Spain.

But since Spanish federal investigators requested that evidence containing riders' names not be used in enquiries by sporting federations, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) have reconsidered their own investigation.

CONI released a statement on Thursday saying they would ask the Italian Cycling Federation to drop Basso's case.

Though the implications of the request were clearly that Basso would be allowed to return to racing with his CSC team after more than three months of suspension, CONI did not close the door completely on re-opening the case.

"In case there is more evidence, even from a third party, [the case] could be re-opened for disciplinary procedures," the statement read.

Basso, who has maintained his innocence since the beginning of the Spanish affair in May and has two years left on his contract with CSC, said he was happy at the decision, but did not confirm when he would return to racing.

"It's good news, but I don't yet know if I can race in the Giro di Lombardia," the 28-year-old told Italian news agency Ansa. "I'm going to talk with Bjarne [Riis, CSC's sporting director], and we will then decide."

Basso and German Jan Ullrich were the two favourites to win this year's Tour de France before both were embroiled in the Puerto investigation along with dozens of other professional riders.

Basso, Ullrich, Fransisco Mancebo, Oscar Sevilla, and the entire Astana-Wurth team were ultimately suspended from the Grande Boucle because of allegations of connections to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the principal figure in the Spanish probe.

Fuentes' offices were raided by the Spanish Civil Guard in May, yielding a large quantity of medical supplies such as anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment for use in blood transfusions, and more than 100 frozen packs of blood.

In a further blow to the sport's biggest event, the 2006 edition of the Tour was ultimately won by American Floyd Landis, whose title was subsequently renounced by race organisers after he tested positive for testosterone.

The Tour of Lombardy is the final race in the 2006 UCI Pro Tour calendar.

Eurosport - Jeremy Stahl - 12/10/2006 21:07